Photo credit to Island View Restaurant.

As the long days of summer beckon a trip to the beach, don’t just think of packing sunscreen and flip-flops. Locals can now enjoy a spectacular sunset and fine dinner at the Lani Kai Island Resort. This Fort Myers Beach resort has long been known as the party place for nightlife and spring breakers, as well as a place to grab a casual bite to eat while at the beach. Recently, however, the owner has added class to the resort’s top-floor dining options, with the opening of the new Island View Restaurant.

“Bob Conidaris and his family wanted to give this beach something it hasn’t had before, which is an upper-scale restaurant with good food at reasonable prices,” says Executive Chef Jason Smith-Agate. He recently relocated from Chicago to run kitchen operations at Island View, having grown up working in his father’s three Italian restaurants: “When I was eight or nine, if I got in a fight with my brother, I’d have to wash dishes.” Chef Jason’s Italian background is evident in the restaurant’s new design and menu, with most entrées cooked in an Italian wood-fi red oven. He’s sticking with what he does best, incorporating fresh-caught, local fish and seafood.

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The restaurant’s tagline is: “Mr. Sea’s Reel Raw Bar and The Art of Wood Fired Cooking.” The only thing not updated in the restaurant’s $800,000 renovation was a mural painted by Conidaris’ late wife, featuring Florida aquatic scenes and wildlife. Restaurant guests dressed for an evening out will appreciate a dedicated glass elevator to take them directly to the Island View restaurant, avoiding the sand-laden elevators, which go to the adjacent Sundeck Glider Lounge. Other updates include a granite bar, bamboo floor, natural plants and a small stage for live piano music and entertainment.

The all-new seating features high-top tables and chairs, so guests get a better view of the sand, water, and sunset. A more private, curtained dining area may be reserved for special occasions. This year marks the 36th anniversary of the Lani Kai, and Chef Jason comments Conidaris for his vision in creating a casual fine dining experience with a breathtaking view. Island View uses fresh ingredients, and every dish is made from scratch, he adds. It may be time to trade in those flip-fl ops for heels and head to the beach this summer. Enjoy the view without the heat at this quiet, air-conditioned restaurant at the top of the Lani Kai.

OUR FAVORITES

01. APPETIZERS/ GRILLED CALAMARI

This fresh, non-breaded approach to calamari allows guests to enjoy the flavor of the lemon-marinated squid, charred and paired with the zippiness of pepperoncini. Other great starters include Oysters Rockefeller – topped with spinach and bacon – and sautéed crab claws, succulently cooked in butter and olive oil with San Marzano tomatoes and Mediterranean spices.

02. WOOD-FIRED WHITE PIZZA

Pizzas, flatbreads, and calzones are cooked in a 750-degree wood-fired oven imported from Italy. The White Pizza features Alfredo sauce, ricotta, spinach leaves and whole, roasted garlic cloves.

03. “BEET IT” SALAD

Sweet beets are the star of this salad, featuring plentiful chunks of feta cheese, cucumber, tomato and crispy wontons over a bed of wild greens. Also try the chef’s “J-Sun” salad, with romaine, corn, tomatoes, bacon, cucumber, olives, avocado and asiago cheese.

04. FILET OSCAR STYLE

Not only is this nine-ounce filet juicy – cooked in the wood-fired oven – it’s served with hearty “Cindy’s mashed potatoes,” an old family recipe from Chef Jason’s mother. Ordering it “Oscar-style” adds another dimension to the flavor, topped with a tasty bake of lobster and crab.

05. SOY GINGER GROUPER

This fresh-from-the-sea dish gets its flavor from a cilantro- soy-ginger marinade. It’s served over rice with charred pineapple, bringing a delightful sweetness. Reel Seafood choices include Mahi, Grouper or Florida Snapper, prepared one of four ways. Try it Picatta – in a creamy white wine sauce – or “Mr. Sea’s Style” – grilled in garlic, lemon, oregano, olive oil, sweet basil, and tomato sauce.

06. TAYLOR STREET CHICKEN

Farm-raised chicken is lightly breaded and topped with prosciutto, spinach and ricotta cheese in this lovely presentation of Taylor Street Chicken. Also try Chicken Marsala, Tuscan Grilled BBQ Chicken or Veal Osso Bucco, starring milk-fed Provimi veal shank braized in the wood oven and served with homemade marinara.

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